AVONDALE, Ariz. – Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Sam Hornish Jr. will start Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 here at Phoenix International Raceway from the 26th position. Hornish clocked in with a 26.633-second (135.171 mph) lap in Friday’s qualifying session to earn the starting spot.
“I feel bad for the guys first of all because we wrecked the first car,” Hornish said after making his run.” We got down on the splitter and actually started bouncing the front of the car. That’s my call to know when it’s too much. We were very free getting into the corners here for qualifying. Guys worked real hard on the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge and I feel pretty good about what they’re going to give me moving forward from here. It’s been a rough day but we’re going to keep our heads and keep working at it. I appreciate all their help.”
Hornish got into the wall with his primary Dodge Charger early in today’s practice session and the team immediately went to their backup Shell-Pennzoil car. The backup Dodge is a new car and has not seen action to date.
“No because you want to drive it in there like a Nationwide car (smiles) and you just can’t do that,” Hornish responded to Dodge SRT’s Jimmy White when asked if the morning’s Nationwide Series practice was a help here today on the Cup side. “Both laps into Turn 1 the car was a bit free and the second lap, I just couldn’t turn it into Turn 3. It just slid up the track a little bit further than what I wanted to. I’d say I probably lost at least a good tenth of a second down there. The guys did a really good job of getting us one run out there today in the backup car before we had to come out and qualify. We’re not going to start anywhere near as well as we want but at the end of the day, this is still a 312-lap race. I started 38th here and finished ninth so I know that it can be done.”
Kyle Busch established a new track qualifying record in winning today’s Coors Light Pole Award with his fast lap of 25.943 seconds (138.766 mph). The top-four qualifiers broke the old record. Martin Truex Jr. was second with a 26.046 (-second lap/138.217 mph), Denny Hamlin third (26.167 seconds/137.578 mph) and Kasey Kahne (26.186 seconds/137.478 mph) fourth. Aric Almirola (26.237 seconds/137.211 mph) rounded out the top-five qualifiers.
Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, Regan Smith, Tony Stewart and Mark Martin rounded out the top 10. Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski will start Sunday’s race from the 14th position after turning in a lap of 26.350 seconds (136.622 mph). Points-battle rival Jimmie Johnson will start 24th after recording a lap of 26.580 seconds (135.440 mph).
“I’m confident that we’ll be fine in the race,” offered crew chief Todd Gordon. “The tires are so hard that if you got just a few inches out of the groove during the practice, you were in trouble. Our guys did an excellent job in getting the backup car out and ready to go. Sam regrouped well and we would have been a lot faster if we’d had the opportunity to qualify later in the session. We have two practice sessions here tomorrow and we will get our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge dialed in and ready for Sunday’s race.”
Saturday’s schedule here at PIR features practice sessions from 9:30 a.m. till 10:25 a.m. and from 12:35 p.m. till 1:25 p.m. (live on SPEED-TV) Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 (500 kilometers/312 miles/312 laps) has a scheduled 1:00 p.m. local starting time (Mountain Standard Time) here on this 1.0-mile speed plant known as the Desert Mile. ESPN-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.